William Meriam Burton
Chemist and oil industry executive William Meriam Burton recognized the need for altering the methods of refining crude oil at the turn of the century to produce gasoline and developed the first commercially successful process for cracking crude oil into gasoline and other products.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Burton received his preliminary education at public schools in his hometown and graduated with a B.A. from Western Reserve University in 1886. He did graduate work in chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and received a Ph.D. in 1889.
Burton started work at Standard Oil in Cleveland as a chemist and in 1890 transferred to Standard Oil of Indiana. There he later served as assistant superintendent and in 1895 became superintendent of the refinery. He was elected a director of the company in 1911, vice president in 1915, and president in 1918. He continued as president until he retired in 1927.
Burton demonstrated the value of laboratory research and testing, and the cracking process he developed more than doubled the potential yield of gasoline from crude oil. During its first 15 years in use the process saved more than one billion barrels of crude oil.